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Incredible after burn in - Just incredible

Out of the box the MH ph25.2 was sweet sounding. It compared with many of its much more expensive solid state competitors. Now I have good cd players with dedicated headphone amps built in so I do not really need a headphone amp not to mention that I have several of the aforementioned higher end solid state offerings. But I miss tubes. So for the first three weeks Ive had this unit, I ran it a lot and the signal was always everybit as good as the source. But that is not what tubes are for - for me. I want the extra roundness and space only available from usually very high prices. And tube units can have increased noise floor. I had more than a hundred hours of burn in on this unit and was about ready to accept the fact that it was very clean, very quiet and had a bit of tube presence. Two nights ago the unit began to come alive. It was subtle at first using all of the usual suspects of great headphones. I was also using the preamp channel to drive amp and speakers as a good tube preamp is really hard to find that can be placed between say a cd player and amp/receiver or more. And again I was vey happy with this interface and the sound was somewhat fuller than direct connect. And at the price that is all I should have expected. Cut to present: The amp opened up finally. The great sound I had been experiencing was obviously from the very high quality solid state part of this amp with some help from the tubes when used in line out preamp mode. However when these little 6N16B tubes finally matured the sound took a serious leap in sonic heaven. It is now pure ear candy both with phones and as a preamp. I cant imagine a better sounding hybrid and Ive not heard one either at any price. Dead quiet and rich and volumnous with peripheral instruments sailing around the room and in my head, yet each with its own exact space. What kind of music? Lots of newer Knopfler, newest Allisson Krauss, some Celine, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. All of the above are state of the art recordings with just about every instrument you can imagine including rustic folk instruments. Well recorder piano is breathtaking as is the lowest of 5 string basses. Electric guitar is now like preCBS Fender tube amps. Acoustic guitar and all other acoustic instruments are incredibly lifelike and rich. And while these recording are very precise and wonderful in their own right, the addition of this unit brings sonic honey in just the right amount without to much tubbiness. And as an interface for mixdown between DAW and Masterlink, the finished master sound of our studio recordings has that beauty and fullness yet with space increased between instrument and vocals that previously was achieved only by very expensive Avalon equipment. Once the burn-in happens there are no qualification as to price for the MH ph25.2. No great for the price rhetoric. This thing is absolutely incredible but several weeks of time must be devoted to burn-in. 100 or even 200 hours of uninterrupted burn may not do it and no doubt as a preamp where the volume must be increased compared to 250 ohm headphones really helps the burn in significantly. What a tool! Doug Kennedy - Fingerpick Magazine

- Doug K, OR
 
Music from a Mac PH25.2 HRT Music Streamer II combo

I ordered the Music Hall PH25.2 because I was looking for a way to listen to music on my Mac Book Pro while I am working at a client away from my home. I could have just used the Bose noise canceling headphones that I use on the airplanes, but being used to listening to SACDs with a set of Focal monitors, the Mac and Bose combination played music but lacked the definition and musicality I was used to at home. Furthermore, I purchased a pair of Audio Technica ATH-AD700 headphones but found that while producing better definition than the Bose headphones, the Mac really was not up to snuff to drive the big and I mean big headphones. Everyone that sees them makes a comment about how big they are or something about directing air traffic. But as soon as they hear them with the Music Streamer II Music Hall combination their eyes light up and they grin from ear to ear. So there you have it. You can stop here and know that the review is a ringing endorsement. However, if you plan on purchasing this combination I suggest you read on and make sure you give 100 hours of playing time before passing judgement. Associated Equipment: • Mac Book Pro 2.8 GHZ with ITunes with all lossless files • HRT Music Steamer II • Music Hall PH25.2 • Audio Technica ATH-AD700 • AudioQuest G Snake .5 meter interconnect • Kimber Cable B Bus .5 meter USB cable Initial impressions The Music Hall packaging is quite good with the unit is suspended in the middle of the box. The PH25.2 is quite large and industrial looking. The unit is much deeper then wide. Assembly appears to be fine with decent quality parts. Just remember that this is a not just a headphone amp. It is a pre-amp with two sets of inputs, a pre -amp out, and two headphones out. The volume control is supposed to control both the pre-amp out and headphones. Because of my current situation where I am away from home I cannot test the preamp out. Day 1 - Go gently into that good night Initially I unpacked the unit, plugged it in, connected the DAC and let all the parts stay on for 30 minutes before playing. Given that this was the maiden run I did not adjust the volume control past 8 o’clock the first evening, off is at 6 o’clock. Hooking up music streamer II is not a problem with a Mac. Mac defaulted all settings to max volume, both in the system preference and in ITunes, and found the music streamer and a USB output. I next went into ITunes to disabled the equalizer/preamp, under window, and adjust the volume to maximum per the instructions. The goal is to not have the computer doing any attenuation or adjustments to the music. This is what the Music Streamer and the Music Hall is for. All said I paid $550 for these pieces and the cables. Best to let them do their job. • Initially, the sound was better then the headphone output from the Mac in terms of bass extension, treble extension clarity. • Soundstage was a little flat and narrow. • Bass lines from Sade were no longer fatiguing which is a plus. If I stopped here and did not allow for 100 hours of burn in I would have been disappointed. But having read other reviews and recognizing that the Music Hall uses tubes, I knew better then to stop here. By the way solid state also needs a burn in period. The capacitors are essentially batteries that need to open up just like on a lap top that needs to charge and discharge several time before it holds the maximum charge. Finally, there are the headphones with their big drivers. Like a pair of speakers they need to be exercised to open up. As I stated earlier that Mac did not have what it takes to drive the ATH-AD700s. Day 10 – We have reached 100 hours burn in is complete Everyone who stops by the office and listens to this combination breaks out in a smile from ear to ear. Everyone can’t help but to appreciate that given the right ingredients in the right combination the music comes out beautiful. At this point I decided to flip through the library and pull out a bunch of different artist to provide a feel of how the combination and handle different music types. • Andre Bocelli cannot possible get any richer. Highs are sweet. Midrange is superb. • Anita Baker sweetly sings “Sweet love”. Cymbal crashes are crisp and clear. Percussion is direct and the impact is forceful. Her voice is deep without being chesty. This song the piano is very sharp and direct indicating that the Music Hall can handle the transients. Other reviews of Music Hall that indicated that it has little drive should be put aside. Perhaps they should have given the proper burn in time. By that I mean not just turning it on but actually playing music through it for the 100 hours. • Annie Lenox is another female deep singer. When setting up speakers I read that you should use a woman’s voice to set the bass. Someone like Annie Lenox or Stevie Nicks should sound deep and full but not chesty. Listening to “Dark road” I adjust the volume from 8 – 8:30 o’clock. Annie stands alone in space voice deep and full but not chesty. Instruments are in the back of the stage with the piano on the right. Strings are moving from left to right. Drums are place to the to the left in the back and very sharp and direct. The organ is hard to place as it fills the space. • Aretha Franklin “Jumpin Jack Flash” gives the initial impression of to much going on. All the instruments are clear but tonight this is a bit of sensory overload. • Barry White’s “Loves theme” is refreshing. Snare drum is crisp. Brush strokes are clear. Instruments all occupy their own space yet blend nicely so as not to have too much air. Flute rides over top over everything clear as a winter’s morning. When Barry sings “Never gonna give you up” his breath and whispers sound like he is just behind me whispering in my ear. Takes a lot of concentration not to turn around and look for him. Bass drum like all instruments is crisp and clear. This is an amp and headphones for someone used to listening to the clarity of monitors but yet wants more bass with the same clarity. The only drawback is that at times the highs can seem a little bright. Then on the other hand in “Honey please can’t you see” this allows the bongos to sound real. • Moving on to something new “I like the way you move” by Billy McGee. Having played trumpet before, I know what one should sound like and this is it. There should be imperfections do to the breathing, angle of the lips, and spit. It is all here. • Bon Jovi “You wanna make a memory” makes you want to adjust the volume up a touch but careful not past 9 o’clock. The heartbreak comes through. Every pluck of the bass. The violins sweep me away. The piano plunks crisp and clear. Everything is so clear. The volume at 9 o’clock is really too loud but there is no smearing. • How about Cher and Per Cetera “After All”. Makes me want to call my Love who at this point is over 1000 miles away. Cher sounds so good. Percussion impactful. Peter Cetra can hit the highs. No complaint here. • Eagles “Lyin eyes” has the sound of a sweet steel guitar but back off the volume those drums can hurt. Having lived in the country I have heard my share of steel guitar and this is what it should sound like. • Evanescence “Sweet Sacrifice” has a good bit of distortion built in which this combo handles with no problems. • George Michael “One more Try” sounds just like it should. I have been to see George Michael in concert. High dollar seats on the side of the stage elevated to just above stage level and located no more then 30 feet from him when he sang this song. Yes this is what it is supposed to sound like. His voice is perfect. Cymbals gentle in the background. Bass drum sharp and direct. This song shows that the Music Hall can handle both ends of the frequency spectrum and the same time. • Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” is one of the greatest ballads coming out of the late 1980’s early 90’s time frame. This song can send chills down your spine. With this combo you will get chills down your spine. • If this combo has a fault is that at time you get sucked into turning up the volume and the sharpness of drums can become overwhelming. This is not a combo the rounds off the corners. No instead it sharpens the focus. Like HDTV sometimes we don’t want to see the flaws. I leave this review with Whitesnake “Is This Love”. The answer is yes. From Andre Bocelli to Whitesnake and everything in between this combo is like HDTV in 3D you will hear it all in its own place in glorious technocolor!

- Tony J, OK